Thursday, August 28, 2008

I meet Buzz Aldrin

I had a chance to hang out with Buzz Aldrin last weekend at Fan Expo. On July 20, 1969, I was not quite 11 years old when I watched on a black and white TV in Wonowon as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first human beings to set foot on another world.

I didn't plan on doing this. Earlier this year, recognizing that my next birthday is my 50th, Jill decided that a VIP pass to the Fan Expo celebrity event with Dr. Aldrin might be a good early birthday present. She was right.

I arrived last Friday before 6pm for the autograph session scheuled to begin at 7pm. I was one of hundreds in the main Fan Expo room in the South Building of the Toronto Convention Centre. By virtue of arriving early and waiting for an hour and a half until the autograph session started, late, I was one of the first 25 or 30 in line. When it was my turn, I shook Dr. Aldrin's hand and told him I had been waiting 39 years to congratulate him on his feat. He autographed for me a large print of himself standing on the moon, similar to the image below, a shot taken by Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 mission.

The second event was a photo op. They staged it in front of a green screen. However,with no prior instructions provided, I had not realized that they were going to do this and had worn a shirt with green stripes in it. They took the shot and added the moon in as background. However, because of my green shirt, you can see the moon through my torso. And just above my belt, there is something that looks suspiciously like a fingerprint.

By the end of the photo session, I had been waiting in line over two and a half hours, and I had spent a total of 30 seconds or less with Dr, Aldrin. But, as I said to Jill, how often in your life do you get to approach a living legend?

The VIP Q&A session took place across the street in a pub. It included a complimentary dinner (sandwiches, salad, some indifferent meatballs and pasta -- the functional equivalent of rubber chicken). I managed four or five more minutes with him, although my supposed one-on-one was shared with two strangers named Anthony and Stephen. Not my choice or theirs -- we were arbitrarily grouped by one of the organizers, who redeemed himself by taking photos.

Buzz Aldrin got his doctorate from MIT for his work on orbital rendezvous. He later went on to do much more interesting work on cycler orbits. I had wanted to ask about any follow-up work that he might have done, but there was no real opportunity for a more technical chat.

Next day, Saturday, was Dr. Aldrin's presentation. I went with Corwin, and we stood with the rest of the audience to give him a standing ovation when he entered the room. Corwin fidgeted through the second half of the talk, but I did manage to get him and Dr. Aldrin in the same photo.

Dr. Aldrin provided a brief retrospective of his life and career. He expressed his concern that the earliest delivery date for the Ares/Constellation launchers in 2015 combined with the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2010 will result in a period when the US will only have access to space through its international partners. He hopes that the US space program will develop an alternate solution that will reach operational readiness sooner than 2015.

He also spoke of his wish that there might be a 40th anniversary reunion of the Apollo 11 crew and support group. My thought is that this is a neat idea, but if something like this is organized, it would be a convention involving potentially hundreds or thousands of people.

The organizers cut short the public question and answer session after two or three questions.

And that was how I got to meet Buzz Aldrin.

1 comment:

cdgies said...

Man!! You get the best Birthday presents!!! You totally lucked out when you found Jill. LOL
Have a great birthday! Sorry but 50 isn't old, didn't many one tell it is the new twenty only smarter. LOL